News / Middle East

Libya's Transitional Government Faces Human Rights Challenges

Gaddafi loyalists, taken prisoner by anti-Gaddafi fighters, are led out after they were found hiding in a hospital in the center of Sirte, October 9, 2011.
Gaddafi loyalists, taken prisoner by anti-Gaddafi fighters, are led out after they were found hiding in a hospital in the center of Sirte, October 9, 2011.

Libya's new leaders are forming a transitional government as they consolidate control and battle the remaining forces loyal to deposed leader Moammar Gadhafi. They face numerous challenges - perhaps one of the greatest being in the area of human rights.

Libyans are still savoring freedom and today a popular outing is to visit the sprawling palace grounds of ousted leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Children pose for pictures among the ruins of the deposed colonel's palace and former rebels fire their guns in celebration.

Bones pictured at the scene of a mass grave in Tripoli, September 25, 2011.
Bones pictured at the scene of a mass grave in Tripoli, September 25, 2011.

Libyans are also uncovering the excesses of Mr. Gadhafi's 42-year rule. Human rights activists say the society has yet to address severe human rights abuses during the Gadhafi era as well as during the struggle to remove him.

Abu Salim Prison is a vast walled complex where thousands of political prisoners were held over the years and where many of them died or disappeared.  When rebels took over the prison in late August, they found extensive files about political prisoners, dissidents and many ordinary citizens.

Mohamed Salem Drah is one of several human rights lawyers documenting detentions, disappearances and other violations by the Gadhafi regime.

"It is very important for history.  It is very important for those who were injured.  It is very important for justice itself," said Drah.

Doctors and nurses in his group are also documenting cases of abuse of prisoners and civilians during the months of fighting.  They say both sides committed abuses, although they say, Gadhafi loyalists were responsible for most of them.

The head of the National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, is urging Libyans to refrain from acts of revenge and is calling on Libyans to build a state that respects the rule of law.

Jalil says the nation must work to abolish hatred and jealousy, and he urges Libyans to avoid revenge and oppression. He says reports of abuses will be investigated.

Human rights organizations are especially concerned about the plight of Libya's sub-Saharan Africans who numbered more than one million and made up one-sixth of the country's population.  Some of them reportedly fought with forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi.

Rights workers say more than one-third of all prisoners are black Africans.  Some of them have told reporters that they were offered money or citizenship to fight for Mr. Gadhafi.

But most were migrant workers.  Many fled Libya when the fighting began.  But more than 100,000 remained and gathered in makeshift camps for protection.

Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch says many were suspected of being pro-Gadhafi fighters and often were detained without reason or charge.

"The problem is that once they get detained by these overzealous young armed men on the streets, they get taken to a detention facility and there is really no process in place to get them released.  There is no investigative authority, no judicial authority in place right now," Bouckaert said.

Bouckaert says it will be difficult to transform the police state built by Moammar Gadhafi into a modern democratic society.  But, he says, this is what most Libyans want.

“We know there will be vast challenges to rebuild structures of a state, but there really is a genuine commitment there - not just on the part of the new leadership, but also on the part of the population.  It lived under brutality for so long that they know it is not what want,” said Bouckaert.

He says it is important that supporters of Mr. Gadhafi who did not engage in human rights violations be included in the healing and rebuilding process.  Because, he says, if they join, the transition can be achieved relatively smoothly and without retribution.

You May Like

Pakistan Among Developing Counties Hit Hard by Global Warming

Pakistani officials hope developed nations agree to scale back emissions, offer help in dealing with climate change

Video Speed, Social Media Shape Counterterrorism Probes

Speed is critical in effort to prevent subsequent attacks; demographics of extremists lend themselves to communicating, establishing profiles on digital platforms

Islamic State Oil Trade Seduces Friends, Foes Alike

Terrorist group rakes in up to $500 million a year in sales to customers such as Syrian government, US-supported rebels and Turkey

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigationsi
Katherine Gypson
December 01, 2015 10:06 PM
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigations

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Russia Marks World AIDS Day With Grim News

While HIV infection rates have steadied or even declined in many European countries, the caseload has grown rapidly in Russia, as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow. Over half of the new infections were transmitted through injection drug use.

Video Pakistan Hit Hard by Global Warming

As world leaders meet in Paris to craft a new global agreement aimed at cutting climate-changing greenhouse-gas emissions, many developing countries are watching closely for the final results. While most developing nations contribute much less to global warming than developed countries, they often feel the effects to a disproportionate degree. As Saud Zafar reports from Karachi, one such nation is Pakistan. Aisha Khalid narrates his report.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

VOA Blogs